My first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer, was an F4B Phantom jet pilot, whose aircraft was shot down on August 29, 1969, approximately 20 miles South of Da Nang, Vietnam, after six months in country. Neither Jerry nor his navigator, 1st Lt. Al Graf, was able to eject, before the aircraft crashed into the Que Son Mountains. Initially Jerry and Al were classified as Killed in Action/No Body Recovered (KIA/NBR). Years later, both Marines were listed as MIA, along with other service members whose bodies were never recovered.
Jerry has been gone nearly a half century, and hope for recovering his remains had run out a long time ago. However, in recent years our family became involved with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), now merged with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and learned that Jerry’s and Al’s remains might, in fact, be recoverable, so we are doing everything possible to support their efforts to make this happen and bring our guys home where they belong.
NOTE: BLOG POSTS ARE NOT UPDATED, SO INFORMATION MAY HAVE CHANGED OVER TIME.
Archive for November, 2015
Hanoi – DPAA Director Michael Linnington meets with Vietnam Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ha Kim Ngoc during his visit to Southeast Asia. Photo by Lee Tucker
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Director Michael Linnington conducted his first major tour of Southeast Asia, Oct 30 – November 12, with stop-offs in Vietnam; Laos; Thailand; and Cambodia. As is customary, Linnington met with senior U.S. officials and their in-country counterparts, along with DPAA leadership and staff at detachments in Hanoi, Vientiane and Bangkok.
With a little less than six months at the helm, Linnington was undoubtedly eager to get into the field and see how his operation works beyond the Beltway. As a retired Lt. General with an impressive resume, Linnington knows that there is nothing like boots-on-the-ground when it comes to assessing a situation, and that’s what prompted him to visit several excavation sites during his multi-country visit.
Observing DPAA recovery teams, working alongside their in-country counterparts, is an amazing experience for the uninitiated, but as a family member with a loved one still unaccounted-for in Vietnam, I found Linnington’s remarks especially heartwarming: “The opportunity to get out into the field and visit with our teams and host nation partners working to account for our missing countrymen was the highlight of my trip,” said Linnington. “The dedication and commitment of the young men and women on our recovery teams is truly inspiring.”
Linnington went on to compliment the host countries for their assistance, saying that we couldn’t do this without them.
When Secretary of Defense Ash Carter selected Linnington, a retired, high level Army officer, to lead DPAA, he sent a powerful message that the U.S. was serious about the MIA issue, and this was not lost on the Vietnamese.
Following a reception for Linnington in Hanoi, November 10, the Vietnamese government released a statement in which Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen Nguyen Chi Vinh said that “Vietnam always gives priority to cooperation with the U.S. on the search for the remains of U.S. servicemen who went missing during the war in Vietnam.”
The Vietnamese government was obviously pleased with Linnington’s response, saying that he thanked the government, people and war veterans for their valuable assistance in looking for and repatriating the remains of U.S. servicemen who went missing in Vietnam.
For those of us with loved ones still missing in Southeast Asia, the value of good relationships cannot be emphasized enough, so I am pleased that Linnington’s trip went well. As I reflect on Deputy Defense Minister Vinh’s words in which he spoke of giving “priority to…the U.S. on the search for …remains,” I am reminded that our respective countries have come a long way in developing an excellent working relationship. Nobody knows that better than families who have followed a loved one’s case for decades. Clearly, Linnington gets it!
“I am honored to have been selected by the Secretary to lead this most important mission. As a former soldier myself, I take very seriously the commitment that we leave no one behind,” said Linnington, also explaining that he was looking at “every opportunity to speed up this mission” and that “those we search for deserve no less, as do their families.” (View a brief bio on Linnington).
Hopefully, 2016 will be a great year for Vietnam War recoveries and identifications — 1,626 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
Our family is praying that the coming year will bring good news, possibly about the return of Jerry’s and Al’s remains. Please stay connected, and I will pass along updates as they become available.
Reflecting on the Vietnam War is a personal journey that some veterans choose not to take. That is, until one day, many years later, an older, wiser veteran accidentally finds compassion and beauty, where he once saw only darkness.
L-R — Clarice M. Yentsch, President of the Waypoint Foundation & Exhibition Curator; Glenn Hoover; C. J. Berwick, friend & owner of the Fish House & Fish House Encore Restaurants, who provided the beautiful cake. (Exhibition Debut, Key Largo Community Library)
Glenn Hoover, a Vietnam War combat veteran and recipient of our nation’s 3rd highest award for valor – the Silver Star, and a group of art professionals/personal friends – were busy putting the finishing touches on his Vietnam War photo exhibition, entitled INNOCENT SOULS: VIETNAM 1968. The production was on schedule, ready for the following day.
The Team: L-R — Clarice M. Yentsch, Curator; Kimmy Schryver-Edwards, Assistant Curator; Lecia Webber, friend and baker extraordinaire. Unable to attend the debut was Producer, Anne Ritchie.
On November 8, 2015, the Key Largo, FL, Community Library was packed with 130 visitors, who had come to view the exhibition, dedicated to my first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer – a casualty of the Vietnam War. Needless to say, the team not only met their deadline but were grateful for the opportunity to invite guests on Glenn’s special journey back in time.
By no small coincidence, the exhibition is now in full swing for Veteran’s Day, and it is getting some high profile attention in Key West. A noted art haven, Key West is focusing today on our Vietnam veterans, as they celebrate the dedication of their Vietnam War Living Memorial. Glenn’s team is also on site for a special showing of his work by the Key West Art and Historical Society. They are featuring a pop-up exhibit of INNOCENT SOULS on the porch of the Historic Customs House Museum.
CONFRONTING THE PAST
Key Largo Community Library was packed with 130 visitors, who had come to view the exhibition.
Beauty, as they say, is in the eyes of the beholder; however, most would probably agree that the image of the young Vietnamese girl at the beginning of this story is mystically beautiful with eyes that appear to have seen so much in so little time. “She is the icon of the exhibit,” says Glenn, of the child, whose persona is undoubtedly woven into the exhibition’s namesake. The image was taken in 1968 by Glenn – at the time, a 1stLt in the US Army, serving in the infantry, primarily in the III Corps area. Some of his images were shot near Parrot’s Beak and around the Lai Khe area at the 1st Infantry’s Base Camp.
The images of the Montagnards (mountain people) were taken in II Corps when Glenn’s Battalion was attached to the Americal Division (23rd Infantry Division) for a brief operation. “The Montagnards’ story is really terrible,” he says, adding that “many of the Special Forces have spent their lives as volunteer advocates for this persecuted minority….”
Although Glenn took hundreds of images, he packed them away for nearly a half century – to forget and go on with his life. “I wish I would have kept in contact with some of the people, but at the time I wanted it to be part of my history and made no effort,” he says, not unlike many guys I’ve interviewed over the years. “Now, especially looking into the eyes of the young Vietnamese kids, I wonder what happened to them,” says Glenn.
THE BACK STORY
INNOCENT SOULS: VIETNAM 1968 — Dedicated to Capt. Jerry A. Zimmer, Missing In Action/Body Not Recovered (August 29, 1969)
Glenn and Jerry were high school friends, honor students and football jocks at Vestal High School in the Triple Cities area of Upstate New York. Even more important, the guys had a special family connection. Glenn’s dad, Dick Hoover, was a WWII Marine, who eventually became Vestal High School’s football coach – much beloved, Coach Hoover mentored all his players, and I know for a fact that he had a lot to do with Jerry’s decision to become a Marine. Raised on a dairy farm in the rural town of Maine, NY, Jerry used to talk about people he admired, and Coach Hoover was high on that list.
Of the 11 starting players on the Varsity, during Glenn’s and Jerry’s senior year (1961), all went on to graduate from college, which was pretty amazing during that era. But even more amazing was that five graduated from Ivy League Schools, i.e., Glenn from Cornell and Jerry from Brown, and five went on to serve in combat roles in Vietnam. The Vestal football stadium is named Dick Hoover Stadium for a good reason. Crazy but true, Glenn’s brother, Jim, is head coach at Walton High School in Walton, New York, and last year won his 300th victory. No surprise, he, too, is beloved and the Walton community showed their appreciation, naming the school’s football field, Jim Hoover Field.
I remember meeting Glenn in 1969, when he and his parents attended a small service for Jerry at the family’s dairy farm, located in a close-knit community, where everyone knew Jerry and always referred to me as “Jerry’s wife.” My next visit to the farm was terribly hard, but my husband Ron and I drove across the country to ask Jerry’s parents for their blessing on our marriage. Our families remained close until the Zimmers passed away in recent years. They were special people, who loved their grandson, Craig — Jerry’s and my son, pictured above as a child, climbing the aircraft in Jerry’s arms, and as an adult kneeling at his dad’s Memorial Headstone in Arlington.
When Glenn heard that we were planning a Memorial Service for Jerry in 2009, at Arlington National Cemetery, he flew up to D.C. from Key Largo. Ever since then, we have stayed in touch. More recently, Glenn told me of his exhibition and interest in dedicating it to Jerry and wanting to make sure it was okay with me. I was honored and told him that I knew Jerry would be, too.
If the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) locates Jerry’s remains, I am certain that Glenn would be delighted to update his exhibition, announcing Jerry’s long-awaited homecoming.
NOTE: Glenn tells me that the exhibition schedule is filling up quickly in various locations through November 2016. I hope you will check out INNOCENT SOULS: VIETNAM 1968 – it is a labor of love. Please visit www.InnocentSoulsVietnam.org. & www.facebook.com/InnocentSoulsVietnam1968.